Just in time for Fat Tuesday, our testers whip up some food with New Orleans flair: gumbo and sweet potato pone! Both come from The New Orleans Cookbook, published by folks that now seem like old friends to Cooking from the Collections, the "staff home economists" of the Culinary Arts Institute of Chicago.
This was a relatively easy dish to make. While it is not the traditional gumbo that one might expect, this was a tasty and filling dish that was well-received by my colleagues, wife, and two-year-old daughter. Since the recipe was published in the 1950s, I took a few liberties based on modern conveniences. For example, instead of preparing the shrimp separately, I used frozen cooked and peeled shrimp. I also replaced canned crab-meat with freshly-packaged crab meat. As far as flavor, one thing that surprised me about the finished product was that it was somewhat bland, which is not what one would expect of gumbo. As you can see from the ingredients list that the recipe went very light on the spices. I was left wondering if this was indicative of the time that the recipe was published. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that many Americans preferred their food, well…blander, back then. I had to do the other ingredients justice, so I ended up adding additional salt, ground pepper, thyme, parsley, and garlic. I also amended the recipe to include beef bouillon and white pepper. If I were to make this recipe again, I would also add additional cayenne pepper and chili powder. (This time I didn’t want to make it too spicy since I was feeding this to a large group!) I especially enjoyed cooking from a historic cookbook from SIL’s collection. This is a very fun way to literally make history come alive.
Sweet Potato Pone
Nothing says New Orleans and Mardi Gras better than Gumbo, King Cakes and Sweet Potato Pone. Yes, that's right - Sweet Potato Pone, a dessert-like casserole made from sweet potatoes. After about an hour my dish was crusty and brown along the edges but seemed a little runny in the middle so I turned the oven off and let it bake about 10 minutes more. It did get brown and crusty on the edges a little too brown it seemed. This recipe makes a generous 6 servings.